“Rarity from the Hollow” is a daring, unique, and fascinating read that attempts to focus on serious real-world issues through a zany sci-fi adventure. While written well enough to be called literary fiction and creative enough to be an interesting science-fiction ride, this didn’t feel the right kind of story for the issues that Eggleton wanted to address.
Lacy Dawn lives in a small town called The Hollow in West Virginia where life is bleak. Abused at home and alone after her best friend is killed by her father, Lacy Dawn’s one comfort comes from Dotcom, an ancient android sent to earth thousands of years ago. With Dotcom’s help, Lacy Dawn forms a plan to heal her family and give them a brighter future. In exchange, Dotcom wants her to save the world.
The best thing about “Rarity” is the writing. It feels timeless, classic and mature in a way that would ensure its longevity if more people knew about it. I would even say it could be read in a college setting both for the craft itself and its unique brand of storytelling. The premise was brilliant and brought a distinctive approach to the adult-fairytale/modern-retelling sub-genre, but I wish the story itself had been stronger and a bit more focused.
“Rarity” reminds me of Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” mixed with Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” and I’m not convinced those are two authors that should show up in the same work.
The first half of the novel works well. The focus on Lacy Dawn trying to heal her parents and interact with Dotcom (which has its own issues, which I’ll address) is a brilliant story on its own. She’s a kid in a horrible situation who has the chance and ability to make it better through fantastical means, which makes it impossible not to root for her. The second half feels like it goes off the rails and, given the tone and nature of the first half, wasn’t quite as enjoyable. If it had been a novel of its own, it might have been a lot of fun. As is, however, it feels a bit disjointed and out of place.
The relationship between Dotcom and Lacy Dawn, on the other hand, felt completely out of place and downright unsettling. “Rairty” spans over two years and ends with Lacy Green being thirteen, making the romantic subplot between her and the android, Dotcom, a bit uncomfortable. If Lacy Dawn had feelings for Dotcom and she grew out of them, it would have added a potentially humorous element to the coming-of-age angle of the story, but the story doesn’t go in that direction. A ridiculous amount of time is also dedicated to Dotcom’s development of human characteristics—including genitals—through the second half of the book, which was distracting and a bit uncomfortable to read, seeing as there were more important things to focus on.
Despite Dotcom’s creepiness and the disjointed nature of the plot, I’m still going to recommend this book because it did something that pop fiction doesn’t usually do:
It made me ask questions.
As much as I didn’t like certain elements and others made me uncomfortable, this novel presented me with some interesting questions that I’m still pondering. What literary and plot elements work when discussing difficult topics in science-fiction? What elements don’t? Why is that? What do we expect from protagonists in bad situations, especially children? Are those expectations fair? Are there limits on who gets redemption arcs? What does that mean for how we view unkind, even abusive, people in real life? What really makes a fairytale “adult?” Is it merely facing darker, grittier events, or is it the themes behind them? The fact that I was constantly questioning myself as both a consumer and producer of fiction as I read is what really makes me want to suggest this book.
If you like challenging books, questions, and a bit of zaniness, “Rarity from the Hollow” is definitely worth a read. Also, the author dedicates his proceeds to the Children’s Home Society of West Virginia, so even you end up not liking the book itself, it would still be a worthwhile purchase.
TRIGGER WARNING: As much as I encourage others to read this book, the depictions of spousal and child abuse could potentially bring up hurtful memories and feelings for some people. Reader’s discretion is advised.
Review by Tay Laroi/Senior Reviewer